Christian leaders use this language often. What does it actually mean? Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson have a great discussion about the Kingdom in their book Externally Focused Quest. Here’s some highlights that may challenge your thinking:
How important is the kingdom? The word kingdom is mentioned 152 times in the New Testament and 116 times in the Gospels. By contrast, the word church is mentioned just three times in the Gospels – all in the book of Matthew. The first public words of John the Baptist and Jesus were to announce the kingdom (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). The first prayer request that Jesus taught his disciples was “Thy Kingdom come…” (Matthew 6:10). The first priority for the believer was to seek God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
What is the kingdom? The kingdom of God is any place over which God has operative dominion. The kingdom is where the King is reigning. So if Jesus is reigning as king in your own life, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
From Howard Snyder’s book Liberating the Church: “Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy, and truth. Church people think about how to get people into church; kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; kingdom people work to see the church change the world”
The church does not exist for itself. The church exists to proclaim and demonstrate that the kingdom is near.
What’s the difference between church thinking and kingdom thinking?
- CHURCH: local, internal, evangelism the goal, programmed, gospel explained, Sunday, growing MY church.
- KINGDOM: global, external, evangelism the starting point, organic, gospel lived out, Every day, growing THE church.
God’s kingdom work is accomplished by believers and unbelievers. See the stories of Artaxerxes, Cyrus, & Nebuchadnezzar (Isaiah 10:12-19, 45:1-6). However, kingdom work does not in any way merit our entrance into God’s kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23).
Thoughts? Check out the books Externally Focused Church and Externally Focused Quest: Becoming the Best Church For the Community.